The FBI is reportedly investigating a former US Navy noncommissioned officer who was identified as a pro-Russian propagandist who allegedly played a key role in spreading intelligence documents uploaded online by suspected leaker Jack Teixeira.
Sarah Bils, 37, a veteran who served at Whidbey Island in Washington state, was outed as “Donbass Devushka,” which translates to Donbas Girl, an online personality behind a vast network of pro-Kremlin blogs, podcasts and fundraising accounts.
While Bils touted herself online as a Ukraine-born woman backing Russia’s invasion and spreading misinformation against Kyiv, she was actually born in New Jersey and now lives in Oak Harbor, Washington, Malcontent News first reported with information from the pro-Ukraine North Atlantic Fella Organization (NAFO) .
NAFO revealed her true identity after comparing footage from Bils’ Donbass Devushka broadcasts with a June 2020 interview she had using her real identity with the Aquarium Co-op Podcast, where she voiced her expertise and love for tropical fish.
During the interview, NAFO found Bils had the same voice as her pro-Russian persona, as well as home decor similar to that in Donbass Devushka’s postings.
NAFO also found that Bils’ birthday matched Donbass Devushka’s online solicitations for birthday donations from her followers.
Bils told the Wall Street Journal Sunday that she is just an administrator for the Donbass Devushka persona, but noted that there were about 14 others “all over the world” who run her vast network.
The Journal reported Monday that Bils’ activities are being investigated by the feds, but the extent of the probe is unclear.
“She is actively under federal investigation, but the circumstances of the content of the investigation are unclear at this time,” a US official told the newspaper.
In a Monday interview with the Journal, Bils said the FBI has been investigating alleged death threats made against her.
She also admitted that she discussed the classified documents leaks with agents at the bureau, but reiterated there are many other administrators of the site that shared the sensitive material.
The Telegram account linked to the persona had posted four of the allegedly leaked documents from the Department of Defense on April 5 that resulted in Teixeira’s arrest last week.
Bils claimed the documents were posted by another administrator.
“I obviously know the gravity of top-secret classified materials. We didn’t leak them,” she said.
Teixeira, 21, a Massachusetts Air National Guard member, was accused of being behind the leak that allegedly revealed sensitive information about the war in Ukraine — and detailed US intelligence gathering on allies like Israel and South Korea.
According to public records, Bils joined the US Navy in November 2009, serving at the Whidbey Island facility, where she rose to the rank of E-7 chief aviation electronics technician, which would have given her access to sensitive information.
Bils was discharged from the military late last year with a lower rank, according to military records. The reason for the honorable discharge and rank change has not been publicly revealed.
It came following an investigation over a high-speed crash in September 2021 when she rear-ended a 55-year-old driver, according to a police report.
Bils told WSJ that she left the Navy after suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.
Pekka Kallioniemi, a member of NAFO and a fellow at the University of Tampere in Finland, touted his group’s effort in exposing Donbass Devushka, warning of the network’s influence in the war.
“They were definitely one of the fastest-growing English-language, pro-Russian communities,” Kallioniemi said.